Tom and Jan Hodson
Photo courtesy of: Fred Tom
Mar 17, 2014
By Selina Nadeau
Tom and Jan Hodson have been in and around Athens and Ohio University for upwards of four decades. They have spent the bulk of their professional lives mentoring and teaching college students. They have become close friends with many of them, according to Jan Hodson.
"When you work for as long as we have with college students, you become really aware of the things they experience -- especially the challenges confronting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students."
Statistics and public opinion polls from the Pew Research Center have shown that acceptance of LGBT individuals is rising, but the United States is not at the top of the list of most accepting countries.
'Coming out' continues to weigh on the minds of many LGBT students who have seen the increased acceptance, but still have qualms about telling their own families. More than half of LGBT individuals surveyed said it was difficult to tell at least one of their parents.
"We've seen so many students trying to come to grips with having to tell their parents and their siblings. Many times it's a trauma," Tom Hodson said. "Then that trauma is sometimes exacerbated by their families cutting them off financially, making it difficult for them to continue their education or pay their rent."
To support LGBT students with this unexpected financial need, the Hodsons created the Tom and Jan Hodson LGBT Support Fund. The fund is distributed by the director of OHIO's LGBT Center to support those students experiencing a financial crisis.
"Students often decide that if they just deny who they are for three more years they won't have to worry about it, but that takes a toll," Tom Hodson said. "We don't want somebody to have to deny who they are, especially for financial reasons."
Tom Hodson graduated in 1970 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. Jan Hodson graduated in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in home economics and a master's degree in child development in 1996. After earning his Juris Doctorate from The Ohio State University in 1973, Tom Hodson practiced law in Athens, served as a Municipal Court judge, a Common Pleas judge and a Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States. He also taught as an adjunct faculty member in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
Tom Hodson eventually became the director of the E.W. Scripps School for seven years and is currently the General Manager of WOUB Public Media and the Joe Berman Professor of Communication.
Jan was the assistant dean of the Honors Tutorial College (HTC) for 14 years before retiring in 2013.
Jan Hodson's job in HTC often led her to serve as a confidante to many students in the college. As a result she often facilitated difficult discussions between students and their parents.
"I got to know about 230 students every year and got to know many of them really well. My office was always open for student to come in, shut the door, sit down and start crying."
Often the best help Jan Hodson could give to students who were struggling with their sexuality and gender was to direct them to the LGBT Center.
"My interaction with the center was to make sure that every new crop of freshmen who came into the Honors Tutorial College were aware of that office and the support available there," she said.
Jan Hodson said she made a point of telling both parents and students at every HTC precollege about the important work the center does for students despite its limited funding.
She remembers one student who came to her for help. This student's situation inspired the Hodsons to establish the fund.
"Last year, we knew a student who, when she came out to her mother, was immediately cut off financially to the point where it was going to affect a study abroad trip that she had already arranged," Jan Hodson said.
"I immediately started calling around at the University in search of some sort of emergency fund that I thought must exist somewhere. I mentioned it to Tom and he's the one who said, 'Why don't we start a fund like that?'"
"We are glad that the center is there and that it can provide support on a very personal level to people who need it," Tom Hodson said. "My involvement with the center has mostly been in making people more aware of the center and what it does."
He helped to create WOUB's "LGBT Perspectives", a video interview campaign which includes interviews with a transgender individual, with Delfin Bautista, Director, LGBT Center, and an individual who identifies as an LGBT ally. The series of interviews on WOUB.org seeks to teach people about the struggles LGBT individuals face.
"There is greater political acceptance, but when it comes down to parents accepting children or siblings accepting other siblings, we still have a long way to go," Tom Hodson said. "There is still an incredible angst I find with young people about coming out. We've made strides, but there is still a long way to go."
The Hodsons encourage others to support the fund, which is not endowed, making the funds immediately available to help students in need.
"We don't want people to think that because we established the fund and it's under our name that other people can't contribute," Tom Hodson said. "It's open to anyone of like mind who would like to help us in this endeavor."
Just like the cause it contributes money to, the fund will require constant support from friends of OHIO. "We're still fighting this ridiculous battle to show everybody that we're all just people," Jan Hodson said. "There's still quite a bit of work to do."
To make a gift to the Tom and Jan Hodson LGBT Support Fund, contact The Ohio University Foundation at 800-592-FUND or firstname.lastname@example.org. Gifts also can be made online at www.ohio.edu/give. Enter the name of this fund in the designation box marked "Other".